I remember waking up, confused, not having a clue where I was. I was on a mattress on the floor and the room was unfamiliar.
After a few minutes a kindly looking stranger came in and started to talk to me.
I was in a detox unit. I was on the floor because I was too drunk to risk being on a bed. My parents had brought me in and I’d soon be getting some medication from the doctor that would help me feel more human.
I’ve had many rock bottoms but that one still stands out in my mind. How did I end up here? What on earth had happened to me to bring me from a successful professional to an incarcerated drunk.
After a while it became more familiar. I was helped to detox and then spent another 3 weeks learning how to live alcohol free, one day at a time.
When my time was up I ceremonially wrote my farewell letter to alcohol, set fire to it and watched its ashes and smoke disappear up the chimney.
I left, reborn, ready to get back to the world of work and relationships and hobbies and life! It lasted about 6 months.
I went to an AA meeting most days, got a sponsor, did service and congratulated myself on how well I was doing. AA is a great institution and it has worked miracles for millions and millions of people. It gave me hope when I had none and I have rarely met a kinder, more genuine, less judgemental people than those I have come across in AA meetings; but for me I just couldn’t get it.
Over the next few years I went through many detoxes and repeatedly recommitted to AA, but each time the result was the same. Pissed again.
Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’ve never committed fully enough, but whatever the reason, I kept getting drunk.
The options for an alcoholic like me seem to be simply exhortations to do the same but this time try harder. In what other sphere of life would we watch thousands and thousands of people fail at an approach and offer them nothing other than the advice to try harder.
I tried counselling, another form of trying to talk yourself better but the effects were much the same. I tried SMART recovery…same result.
Whatever I tried I still would eventually get back to a point where I would pick up a drink and the whole disastrous cycle of self destruction would begin all over again.
After more than 10 years of trying to become and stay abstinent I have finally come to the conclusion that this will never work. I need to learn to live with alcohol, not spend a lifetime trying and failing to live without it.